Two artist-decorated bottles stand guard over a tray of tasty grapes at the Drabkin auction. Sequential signs on toothpicks read “Each tiny grape is a gift of the vine and a part of the magic of the wine.” ##Photo provided

A Lot from a Little

McMinnville winemaker hosts creative auction for charity

Klooster's Clusters

Karl Klooster is the associate editor of the Oregon Wine Press and writes a wine column for the News-Register in McMinnville. He became professionally involved with wine in 1972.

A modest but carefully directed assistance effort enables the Give A Little Foundation to make a little stretch a long way. The McMinnville nonprofit was created in 2008 by retired Linfield professor Ellen Summerfield and her husband, rare book dealer Phillip Pirages.

The foundation employs imaginative ways to generate donations in support of its causes. For example, last year, members of its all-volunteer board pledged to match every donation dollar for dollar.

Pirages said, “That was a very generous gesture on their part.” But like the foundation’s giving program, it could be done only one time, as board members are also financing the organization’s operating expenses.

The matching fund concept gave Give A Little a big boost. To maintain the momentum, the foundation launched Business Partners 2014, a campaign to enlist business owners from the valley. One who the foundation approached was Remy Drabkin, owner of McMinnville’s Remy Wines. And she not only accepted; she went one better.

“Remy suggested we hold an auction event at her winery,” Pirages said. “She would donate wines from her cellar collection for attendees to bid on, thus likely raising more money than she could otherwise afford to give.”

The bonus occurred with the idea of having artists design one-of-a-kind labels for the wines. There were 26 bottles in all, a collection of Tempranillos and Syrahs dating from 2005.

Drabkin was delighted to help the foundation in such a special way. Currently serving on the McMinnville Planning Commission, and recently winning the Ward 3 seat on the McMinnville City Council, she is eager to help the community any way she can.

Her winery has its own annual giving program called Beneficio, reflecting the winery’s Italian theme. Beneficio helps support the McMinnville Education Foundation, Yamhill County Community Action Partnership, Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Research Institute, McMinnville Rotary Club, Oregon Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and Juliette’s House.

Now she can add to that list the Give a Little Foundation. On Oct. 18, it received the “Beneficio” of RocktoberFest, a special winery event combining wine, food and music with the auctioning of wines decorated by local artists.

The music was provided by Black and Blue, a rock group that added upbeat entertainment to the scene. A sizable crowd enjoyed itself as cooperative weather permitted activity both inside and outside the winery.

Attendees purchased wines and beer, munched on complimentary food, including salami from Fino in Fondo, and placed bids on personal Remy library wines bearing original, hand-painted labels.

The roster of local artists enlisted to design labels included Alter One, Karen Gale, Marilyn Higginson, Julie Ann Maahs, Ron Mills, Richard Thompson, Nicole Dale, Cloe Zinda, Nancy Campion, Marilyn Higginson, Cecilia McClellan, Tracy Hayes, Zack Hixson, James Dowlen, Kareen Sturgeon, Sylla Gibs, Lisa Springer, Katie Reed Cawood, Suzanne Schneider, Maija Rebecca and Jason Fritz.

Some $2,300 was raised from successful bidders, who were rewarded with fine mature wines within a collectible container. The proceeds went entirely to the Give a Little Foundation, dedicated to helping Yamhill County residents facing immediate need.

Aiding an individual during a personal crisis, medical emergency or other severe problem is Give A Little’s raison d’etre. The program ensures help will go to the most needy in the right way. As the foundation states, “To ensure that the money is used for the intended purpose, we always pay the service providers such as landlords, pharmacies and car repair shops, rather than the individuals themselves.”

In answer to the question of whether or not one-time aid can really be of help in serious situations, based on experience, the foundation replies that it has bought time for someone looking for employment, recovering from illness and finding ways to resolve a particular problem. The foundation’s website is replete with testimonials from grateful recipients who have benefited from timely assistance. The following example may sum it all up. As with all of them, this quote is anonymous.

“We all fall on hard times in life. It’s nice to know someone is out there who can put us back on our feet. With all my heart, I wish to thank all who have contributed to the Give a Little Foundation. The generosity helped me more than I can say. May you always be there for others like me.”

Let me conclude by saying how much we appreciate the generous spirit and active community efforts of people like Ellen Summerfield, Phillip Pirages and Remy Drabkin.


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